Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The Cytosolic Domain of T Cell Receptor ζ Associates with Membranes in a Dynamic Equilibrium and and Deeply Penetrates the Bilayer



Kerstin Zimmermann, Rebecca Eells, Frank Heinrich, Stefanie Rintoul, Brian Patrick Josey, Prabhanshu Shekhar, Mathias Loesche, Lawrence J. Stern


Interactions between lipid bilayers and the membrane-proximal regions of membrane-associated proteins play important roles in regulating membrane protein structure and function. The T cell antigen receptor (TCR) is an assembly of eight single-pass membrane spanning subunits on the surface of T-lymphocytes that initiates cytosolic signaling cascades upon binding antigens presented by MHC-family proteins on antigen-presenting cells. Its ζ subunit contains multiple cytosolic immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs) involved in signal transduction, and this subunit by itself is sufficient to couple extracellular stimuli to intracellular signaling events. Interactions of the cytosolic domain of ζ (ζcyt) with acidic lipids have been implicated in initiation and regulation of transmembrane signaling. ζcyt is unstructured in solution. Interaction with acidic phospholipids induces structure, but its disposition bound to lipid bilayers is unknown. Using surface plasmon resonance and neutron reflection, we characterized the interaction of ζcyt with planar lipid bilayers containing mixtures of acidic and neutral lipids. Two binding modes of ζcyt to the bilayers were observed in dynamic equilibrium: one in which ζcyt is peripherally associated with lipid headgroups and one in which it penetrates deeply into the bilayer. Such an equilibrium between the peripherally-bound and embedded forms of ζcyt apparently control accessibility of the ITAMs to tyrosine kinases and may regulate the signal transduction pathway. Our results reconcile previous conflicting studies of ζ structure and provide a framework for understanding how lipid interactions regulate biological activity for this cell-surface receptor system.
Journal of Biological Chemistry


T cell receptor signaling, neutron reflectometry, protein-membrane interaction, phosphorylation


Zimmermann, K. , Eells, R. , Heinrich, F. , Rintoul, S. , Josey, B. , Shekhar, P. , Loesche, M. and Stern, L. (2017), The Cytosolic Domain of T Cell Receptor ζ Associates with Membranes in a Dynamic Equilibrium and and Deeply Penetrates the Bilayer, Journal of Biological Chemistry, [online], (Accessed June 12, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created September 10, 2017, Updated October 12, 2021